- The 2020 Kia Telluride impresses with its high level of refinement, luxury and technology
- Someone fix that lane keep assist system please
The 2020 Kia Telluride arrived on the market with an immediate impact on the midsize, three-row crossover segment. It stands out with its sporty, refined exterior design, and it’s likely why it’s getting more attention than the equally new, and equally good, Hyundai Palisade which with it shares platform and mechanical components.
It’s worth nothing that this isn’t the first large utility vehicle introduced by the Korean manufacturer. The Kia Borrego hit the market about ten years ago with a body-on-frame configuration, right when North American consumers were starting to downsize their SUVs. It didn’t last very long, and sold very poorly.
The 2020 Kia Telluride is a much better proposition, because its size is right, positioning itself in the same category as the Chevrolet Traverse, the Honda Pilot, the Nissan Pathfinder, the Ford Explorer and the Toyota Highlander, among many others. Sales are off to a good start both in Canada as well as in the United States where the Kia is built—where these six- to eight-passenger SUVs are extremely popular.
Only one powertrain is available in the Telluride for now, and it’s a 3.8-litre V6 that develops 291 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. It’s connected to an eight-speed automatic, and although a front-wheel drivetrain can be chosen in the U.S., all-wheel drive is standard in Canada.
This system favours the front wheels under normal driving conditions, and can send a portion of the engine’s torque to the rear as needed—20% in Eco mode, 35% in Comfort mode and 50% in Sport, Smart and Snow modes. The AWD system can also be locked in a 50/50 split at the touch of a button.
The 2020 Kia Telluride’s fuel economy is rated at 12.5 L/100 km around town and 9.6 on the highway, for a combined average of 11.2 L/100 km. That’s right in the middle of its segment. During our winter test, we averaged a respectable 11.5 L/100 km.
What the 2020 Kia Telluride Does Well
- The Telluride’s exterior is bold and upscale, while interior fit and finish is beyond reproach. Not only does this midsize crossover give its aforementioned competitors a run for their money, but it also makes luxury-brand models like the Cadillac XT6 and the Acura MDX seem overpriced.
- The 2020 Kia Telluride’s engine is strong, sounds pretty good as it winds up and is perfectly suited to the vehicle’s mission as a people mover. In addition, it provides the Kia with a 5,000-pound (2,268-kg) towing capacity.
- There’s plenty of room for the family in this vehicle, and the second-row seats are easy to manipulate for gaining access to the third row. The second-row bench can be swapped for captain’s chairs, which drops capacity from eight to seven, while cargo space is also higher than the segment average, as only the Honda Pilot, the Chevrolet Traverse and the Volkswagen Atlas are more accommodating in that regard.
- Technology as well as comfort and convenience features abound in the 2020 Kia Telluride. It can be equipped with a dual-pane sunroof, Nappa leather upholstery, heated second-row seats, ventilated front seats, a suede-like headliner, three-zone automatic climate control and head-up display, among many other items. It also benefits from an infotainment system with a 10.25-inch touchscreen, a Harman/Kardon sound system and USB ports in all three rows. Even fully loaded, this Kia doesn’t go over the $55K mark.
- The Telluride is safe. Like many others in its segment, it scored a Top Safety Pick rating from the IIHS, with excellent crash test results, and the only the headlights—which were rated at “acceptable”—prevented the crossover from receiving a Top Safety Pick+ award.
What the 2020 Kia Telluride Doesn’t Do Well
- Kia is still perceived as a “cheap car” brand, and if there’s one vehicle that can help turn the tide, it’s the Telluride. Resale values are slowly increasing at Kia, but this takes time. As good as this vehicle is, having Kia badges glued to the grille and tailgate may prevent it from selling as much as the Highlander and the Pilot.
- Although the 2020 Kia Telluride’s active safety feature list is exhaustive, the lane keep assist system is downright annoying. The steering wheel constantly quivers in our hands as the vehicle tries to stay in the absolute middle of its lane, which is distracting, especially when we’re driving in slippery surfaces. We end up deactivating the lane keep assist, which defeats the purpose of having it in the first place. Pretty much all Hyundai and Kia products have this issue.
- The Telluride’s ride is comfortable and refined, there’s still some road and suspension noise to be heard, especially around town. That being said, it’s not a dealbreaker.
- Although fuel economy is in the segment average, competitors such as the Explorer and the Highlander are offering hybrid powertrains. The Toyota is particularly frugal with a combined consumption of 6.7 L/100 km. Kia has yet to present us with electrified powertrains for its bigger crossovers, but the next-generation Sorento should get one. We’ll see if the Telluride will eventually be offered with it too.
What We Tell Our Friends
There are very good reasons explaining why the 2020 Kia Telluride won AJAC’s Best Large Utility Vehicle in Canada award and MotorTrend’s SUV of the Year title, in addition to picking up the North American Utility Vehicle of the Year trophy. It’s a well-finished, comfortable and feature-packed crossover that was designed for the North American market, and looks pretty good, too.